I am thankful for my testimony, for the story that God wrote to woo me into a sweet and simple relationship with him. It is rather ordinary, not a lot of flash. Just a big mess and a slow, gradual, and continuing realization that this mess is the stuff of God. The stuff that makes being with God seem like pure paradise.
Like I said, my story is rather ordinary. Part of this story involves growing up in the church and a family that truly loves God. I am quite thankful for this but I’ve come to notice that this upbringing has taken much of the power and “shock effect” out of the vocabulary of the Bible. There are so many good and full words: faith, love, joy, peace, kindness, sanctification, redemption, resurrection, steadfast, grace, mercy and the list goes on. These words are the stuff of God. The stuff that makes being with God seem like pure paradise. But when we take them away from the story of God they lose their heavenly weight. They just become words. So what I want to do is place one of these words (actually phrases) back into God’s story and explore the divine intricacies and epic proportions that are wrapped up in its feeble letters. The phrase is the glory of God.
They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.
– Psalm 106:20
Ha! I love that David added “that eats grass”. Makes me laugh. But then I get kind of sad because I realize that I do this so often. If David wrote this about me it would say “Ben exchanged the glory of God for the approval of people who sip on lattes.”… Hmm. That stings. But what really am I exchanging? What am I losing out on when I accept people’s opinions instead of the glory of God? What I think of is standing in a worship service, listening to the worship leader ask for God to show us His glory as if we are at a show and hoping that the pyrotechnics go off. But to be honest, I don’t think I need another show, I don’t need to be entertained any more than I already am. Sometimes I think we say “show us your glory” as a sort of catalyst, a way to boost our “spiritual experience”. But for something that is so central to God’s being I think it should be something that we know deep in our own soul, not a drug we use to get a supernatural high.
There’s a guy in the Old Testament who had seen the whole show. He saw seas parted, plagues sent down from heaven, and wonderfully frightening lightening storms. But that didn’t satisfy him. He wanted something deeper, something that would sustain instead of entertain. His name is Moses.
We begin this story right after the people of God decided they wanted a statue of an ox eating grass rather than the God who held back the waters of the Red Sea so they wouldn’t be killed. Again, I start to snicker but then I’m slapped with my own pathetic desires. Anyway, Moses goes back up the mountain so that he can replace the tablets that he shot-putted into the crowd.
At this point I think Moses was pretty exhausted. He was physically exhausted, going up and down the mountain who knows how many times. He was emotionally exhausted, tired of yelling at the cow worshippers. He was relationally exhausted: betrayed by his own brother and sister, wondering if he had anyone who genuinely loved him, and feeling like he had to appease this God who just gave him an impossible law to follow. Yeah, Moses didn’t have much left. So as he goes to talk with God again he seems to just spill what he has left. “God I know you want me to lead these people but I can’t do this on my own. I heard you when you said ‘I know your name, and you have also found favor in my sight’ but I don’t even know who you are or how you live or act or breathe! I need to know who you are. Please, show me your glory” (Paraphrase of Exodus 33:12-18). Like I said, Moses had seen the plagues, the parted seas, the thunder and lightning at the mountain but that wasn’t enough. He needed to know who God was, what he was all about, how he could relate. And God responded.
“Alright”, God said, “I’ll come real close to you and tell you exactly who I am. But I’m going to cover your face with my own hand because your mortal eyes cannot handle my goodness” (Paraphrase of Exodus 33:19-23). So God placed Moses in a cleft of the mountain, covered his eyes, passed by, and told Moses exactly who He was.
“God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”
– Exodus 34:6-7 (MSG)
This is the glory of God. This is at the core of who He is. This is I AM. And even the end, the part that doesn’t sound so nice, he completes with the overflowing love of his own Son.
The glory of God isn’t cold or impersonal. It’s not another show to enjoy. No, gosh no. It is deeply personal. Incredibly intimate. The glory of God is Him letting you and I know exactly who He is so that we can be in the most soul-satisfying relationship known to man. God’s glory is all about him kneeling down, putting his hand on your face, and speaking words of unfathomable satisfaction into your heart. Words that have been woven through His entire story. Words that show why being with Him is pure paradise.
So please show us your glory, Father. Not that we might be dazzled or amazed but because our souls are exhausted and unsatisfied.